A number of disability organisations, including Inclusion Ireland, the National Parents and Siblings Alliance and Irish Autism Action, in addition to local organisations from the Midwest, came together to demand action for school leavers without post-school placements in July.
A number of months ago, the HSE identified approximately 660 young adults with an intellectual disability and/or autism leaving school, who need further support from disability services. In July, 153 of these young adults had no further education, training, or day service placement confirmed for September. In mid-August, 98 school leavers were still without places, according to Paddy Connolly, CEO of Inclusion Ireland, who said: ‘Minister Lynch must take responsibility for this situation. Government cannot say they were not forewarned— this situation has repeated itself annually since 2008, yet young adults with disabilities and their families are again facing a summer of uncertainty and stress as they wait to be told whether a service will materialise in September. Clearly, this shows disjointed leadership.’
‘Government, through the HSE, try to place young adults in disability services with no input from the person with a disability on their own ambitions or preferences for the future. They are instead told where they are going and what they are doing. There seems to be no forward planning in government on this issue. Young adults with disabilities are not permitted to build a future; instead they are slotted into whatever box is available.’
Tony Murray, PRO of the National Parents and Siblings Alliance, said: ‘Even those who do secure some form of placement in September may not receive the service that best supports their needs. For example, many will get a three.day service, when a five-day service would better support them. When people are being squeezed into any available placements, then questions must also be raised about the quality of service.’ As well as those leaving school, at the time of writing, a further 54 adults leaving post-school training are still looking for further support from disability services. In July, this number was at 73.
Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme on 22 July, Minister Kathleen Lynch said additional funding was not made available to service providers this year for school leavers, but that ‘service providers, not all of them, but the majority of them, have stepped up to the plate and really been extraordinarily generous and done incredible things.’
Inclusion Ireland says ‘further education, training and day service options must be available, and planning must start now for what will happen in 2013 and after that, so as we’re not left in this situation again next year. Government must ensure everyone who needs a service receives it and future planning must take place that includes the voice of the person with a disability.’
The organisations who called for action on this issue were: Inclusion Ireland, National Parents and Siblings Alliance, Irish Autism Action, Parents and Friends Daughters of Charity Services Lisnagry Limerick, North Tipperary Autism Support Group, South Tipperary Autism Support Group, Áras Folláin, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, Lámh Cúnamh, Ennis, Co. Clare, Paving The Way parents, Clifden, Co Galway, Clare Federation for People with Special Needs, Ennis Voices for Autism, Co. Clare, Clare Crusaders, Co. Clare and ConnectAbilities, Co. Clare.